When Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz) Post is discovered in the back of a car in the school car park with her panties around her ankles during her high school Prom Dance, all hell lets loose. What is considered even worse about this scenario is the fact that the other half-naked person in the car is not her ‘date ‘ for the night but her best friend, Coley (Quinn Shephard) who she has been having a secret sexual relationship with for some years.
Now the orphaned Cameron is whisked off by her aunt and legal guardian, Ruth (Kerry Butler) to a remote private boarding school literally in the middle of nowhere, and where they practice their specializing in anti-gay conversion therapy undisturbed. The place is called God’s Promise and is run by a determined and slightly demented director Dr. Lydia Marsh (the wonderful Jennifer Ehle) who one of the students aptly described as being like a Disney villain. Her second-in-command is actually her brother Reverand Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), who claims that he too also a victim of same-sex attraction until he found God and so now belts out corny ‘Jesus songs’ on his guitar to stop himself (and everyone else) getting the urge to sin.
At first, Cameron is shy and determined to at least play at fitting in so that she can home again. She, however, is never going to be like her new roommate, Erin (Emily Skeggs), who is one of her classmates who is desperate to get with the program and redefine themselves as straight. She actually soon identifies with the school’s rebels the commune-raised post-smoking hippie Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and her best friend Native American Adam (Forrest Goodluck) who are under no illusion how harmful the program is that the school is peddling.
Although the story has a lot of good humour throughout it does take a very serious turn when a boy named Mark (Owen Campbell) who had been one of the school’s “success” stories and a model of fake heterosexuality, has a breakdown in group therapy that leads to an even worse turn of events.
This sophomore feature from Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behaviour) that she wrote with Cecilia Frugiuele, based on a novel by Emily M. Danforth is set in the 1990’s but sadly it’s a tale that is still be repeated now ….. and without even the slightest trace of humor too. It’s a compelling expose of the iniquities of such blatantly inhuman manipulation of teenagers who are just coming to terms with their sexuality, but Akhavan does it so well without having to resort to any heavy-handedness at all.
She is well served by her extremely talented young cast particularly Moritz in the title role who gives a career-defining performance. Great soundtrack too.
This movie will certainly be a hit within the queer community even after it had played the Film Festival but it really needs to the find the audiences outside of this too. It would be such a shame if it doesn’t.
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